Dominique Williamson, 23, has never had a hard time making friends. “I’ve never been in a position where I don’t have any girlfriends, to hang out with at least,” she said.
But Ms. Williamson, a vegan chef and cookbook seller, moved to Atlanta from New York City just before the pandemic. When things were still open, she would dine alone and introduce herself to anyone else sitting alone at the bar.
But once Covid-19 launches, that option will run out. Some of the friends she’s had since growing up in Atlanta have all moved away for work, graduate school, or the pandemic. “I am a creative person. I work from home, how do I make friends? ” she speaks.
For most of the last year, nobody did anything fun. But now that cities are reopening and vaccines are widely available, she wants to reclaim a social life. So, three weeks ago, she Googled “Make Friends in Atlanta.”
Her search led her to a Facebook group called Friends in Atlanta with more than 13,000 members. It works similarly to a dating app: participants, all female, post photos of themselves along with descriptions of what they enjoy doing, and other members can private message them if they want to meet.
Kourtney Billups, 23, a nurse, got in touch and they agreed to meet for Sunday brunch in early May. Ms Billups said: ‘I’m also using dating apps, so I treat it as something similar. “We linked immediately. We have the exact same chart as it relates to astrology.”
When they both realized that they wanted to spend Memorial Day weekend in Miami, they booked a trip – flight, hotel, restaurant reservation – on the spot.
Across the United States, many people are coming out of the pandemic with their social lives reduced. Some have moved out when the gathering places closed and there were no opportunities to make or nurture new friendships. Others stay only to watch most of their lives flee.
Now they’re going online with Facebook groups, Meetups, and apps like Bumble BFF, where they can connect with potential friends just like they can date a partner. Some of the older clubs and groups, like Soho House, are making it easier for their members, who crave human connection, to meet each other.
“Who knew making friends as an adult during a pandemic could be so difficult to navigate?” Mrs Williamson said.
Finding friends can feel like a full-time job.
“I had a system for it,” said Stephanie Stein, 35, a sole attorney who moved to Manhattan in March 2020 after living in Florida for 10 years. “I need a late breakfast friend, a hangout friend, a shopper friend, a worker bee friend. I already have buckets that I want to fill. “
So she has to work, switch to Bumble BFF. Her opponents have to be female, single, and look like they’re having a blast in all of her photos.
Ms. Stein finds the process more liberating than dating. She doesn’t care what their job is, where they live or if they’re hot. “Friends” dates do not carry the same expectations. “Even if you date, and you don’t like him, but he never texts you, your ego will suffer,” she says. “With a girl, it’s like we’re having a bite, it would be good if I never talked to her again.”
She now has five or six friends that she sees regularly, as soon as New York City reopens. “We went to dinner, we went to a late breakfast, we all went to a party at the Kentucky Derby,” she said. “It’s the same as what you do with regular friends. These are my real friends now”.
Some people are turning to Meetup or Facebook.
Nick Yakutilov, 29, a consultant living in Queens’ Forest Hills neighborhood, started Meetup in April called a Live New York Hangout for group dinners and comedy shows. “Everyone seems eager to go out and meet each other, so I thought why not form a group?” he say. It has 500 members, and each event (like ordering a dinner for 10 people, for example) sold out within two or three days.
Michael Wilson, 36, works as an industrial engineer at Boeing in the Seattle area and runs a Facebook group called Make Friends in Seattle!, where people post things they want to do with new friends like hiking. . Before the pandemic it had 700 members. Now it has 8,000.
“Every day we can have a few dozen requests to join,” Mr. Wilson said. “We’re talking about doing a lazy river cruise for everyone or maybe Go Karts.”
Members’ clubs that once could have been seen as independent are now helping inquisitive members connect with each other. Soho House recently added a feature on its app called House Connect, which connects members based on shared interests, career pursuits, and answers to questions like “What keeps me busy? busy”.
Others are looking for friends in less structured ways.
Molly Britt, 38, content creator for Chevron, lives outside of Seattle. She moved there shortly before the pandemic with her husband, but they are now separated. With few friends, she felt alone. “The pandemic hit, and I was wondering, ‘What am I going to do here? “” She speaks. “I’m as outgoing as they come in.”
Then a new friend shows up on her real doorstep.
Michelle McKinney, 46, has left her job during the pandemic and is delivering groceries to Safeway next door. She rang Miss Britt’s doorbell, and the two began to talk. Soon it turns into talks about their children and their lives…and both want to meet new friends.
“She was on my doorstep for about 30 minutes,” Ms. Britt said. “At some point she said, ‘I guess I’d better get back to grocery delivery, but before I go, can I get your number.’ We immediately started sending each other GIFs like ‘Did we just become best friends? “
Now that they are both vaccinated, the friendship has grown in the house. “Last week, she came to my house with pizza and sangria,” Ms. Britt said. “We cannot be silent when we talk to each other. I never let her go as a friend.”